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I believe product reviews should show facts and opinions in a clearly defined way, so Iíll try and stay concise and to the point. Describing what things look like for example I feel is pointless Ė just look at the pictures.
Imperial Products are the latest brand to be added to the rapidly expanding list being distributed by Fli_Racing_Distribution; a joint partnership run by rider/racers Colin Williams and Wayne Tabernor. Imperial products are Taiwanese made and proud of it. Days of hidden or even removed "Made in Taiwan" stickers or Western rebranding are coming to an end. Most products made in the far-east are now considered to be as good if not better than those from anywhere else so I was keen to see if these products measured up...
On test here are Brakes and Grips.
First of all its worth mentioning that the Brakes, Discs, size adapters, braided hoses and Pads are all Imperial branded and available separately. The hoses are steel braided and sheathed and can be shortened from either end (unlike some). The brakes come fully bled and ready to bolt on. They are only available in IS mounts that bolt on directly to utilise 160mm discs.
As you can see here, I've got 203mm discs in use by using the supplied adapters.
Adapters for post mount forks (like all 2007 Marzocchi's) should be available soon. All brake sets come with loads (and I mean loads) of various thickness shims for fitting. Calliper bolts are hex-key type (Allen) and the lever clamp and disc bolts are torque (star) type. The adapters are slotted so the callipers can fit discs between 200 and 205mm.
Pads are the same fitting as Hayes and fluid type is DOT 4. Weight is, well I don't really care and doubt that most Downhillers will either Ė for a brake set anyway, but they're probably on the heavier end of the scale.
Very, very powerful. That has to be the first thing said.
I sped up the bed-in time by smearing mud round the discs (best brake prep there is in my opinion) and they reached maximum power almost by the time I'd left the car park!
I really had to get used to the power for a while as the brakes Iím used to arenít anything like these. I was worried that they felt a little digital, but I think that's more to do with getting used to more powerful brakes. That said, they can feel a touch ON or OFF. The finger lever is very long, so you can set it up to achieve more or less leverage and also have 1, 2 or even 3 finger braking.
I found that putting the lever a lot closer to my grips than normal was best, pulling the brake with my finger very close to the lever pivot Ė further away and all the power comes a bit too soon, popping oneís eyes out!
To summarise I'd say the most impressive features are the price and the power. I also like the lever shape and think the discs look real nice.
What I think is slightly compromised is that the looks of the aluminium bits doesnít really outclass their price. That and the fact that the modulation or 'feel' is a very steep curve from a little bit on to very ON.
At this price point there is very little competition. Even Shimano's Deore brakes are more expensive than these and they only have a fraction of the power.
Price will be around £100 for a complete set in 160mm (yes front AND rear!). 180 and 203mm versions are only set to be about £5 more.
These are very similar in design to a certain other company's Allen bolt clamp grip idea Ė in fact they're almost identical Ė I think you know who I'm talking about. Even the actual grips are very similar, with waffle patterns and rubber compound used.
Imperial make 3 grip types: either with a small flange or without, both with bolt collars at either end of the grip, and a cheaper single clamp grip.
There are a couple of differences to other brands though. Most notable are the bolts which are 3mm Allen head, instead of 2.5mm like "other" brands Ė an improvement in my opinion.
I tested the without flange grips, which are very low profile and have a very soft rubber compound. They felt awesome, very direct. They didnít budge and Iíve no reason to think they will anytime soon.
On the down side, the bar plugs they come with are only basic push-in types, which makes them look slightly less smooth and one-piece than their competitor's. Still, its enough to get you passed to race by any event Commissaire.
Without flanges - £13 including both collars and bar plugs.
With flanges - £12 including both collars and bar plugs.
Plus a cheaper set with just one bolting clamp for £8.50
Imperial grips are rotors are available from the gravity-slaves shop. Get the brakes by emailing orders direct to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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